The sport of boxing is one of contrasting fortunes…whilst it can be a path laden with riches and fortune, more often than not is one which bears little reward for years of dedication.
For every Oscar De La Hoya or Floyd Mayweather there are 10 or more professional’s who don’t hit the heights they may have hoped. The reasons can vary, from simply not having the same talent too not having the same opportunities.
Given the risks involved in the sport it would be easy to think that for those who don’t quite make it they would simply give up and make a living without the discomfort of being hit in the face.
So why do so many professionals continue to box despite not finding the success they may have hoped for when first starting out. Whilst it may be a case of holding out hope for that one big opportunity or pay day that will make a difference, the answer is much simpler…they do so because of an unwavering belief in themselves that they can make it.
This is a sport where one cannot question their ability; they must have complete faith in themselves and complete dedication to their craft. From day one a boxer is ingrained with a steely determination which extends to life outside of the ring not just within it.
One such person is Suz Member. Having turned pro and made his debut in 2007, the first Preston-born Asian to turn professional in any sport, has managed to only grab 6 bouts since. Injuries, licence difficulties and other problems are to blame yet despite this he is still as determined as ever to make something of himself in the pro-ranks.
In those 6 bouts he has won 5 with his only loss coming via a 5th Round stoppage against Terry McDermot. All of his wins have come via stoppage showing that he has power in his fists.
At the age of 33 he will certainly have to pick up the pace if he wishes to achieve success in the paid ranks but for Suz he has already tasted success in a manner which is immeasurable. Like so many boxers Suz spent his youth getting into trouble,
‘It was never anything major but I was getting into petty crime and just generally being a nuisance to other people’
He now spends his time not only training to realise a dream but also using his past experiences and love of boxing to help other kids within the community. In 2009 he was chosen to help troubled youths in a government mentoring scheme and it is this work which he gets the most pleasure from.
‘I do a lot of charity work, talks at youth clubs and visiting young offenders institutes because it’s important to give back to the community and remember where you came from’ said the Preston boxer.
‘Anything is possible in life, if you want to do something and have a positive attitude, you can achieve it.
This attitude has allowed him to build up a following amongst the community who turn out to support him whenever he boxes. With no sponsors, promoter or managers behind him it is not only his job to fight but to also ensure he gets fans coming to come see him.
‘When I box in these hall shows I often have to go out and sell the tickets myself to drum up interest. I’m lucky because I have a good fan base and people are always willing to come out and get behind me. I am always surprised at how many tickets I sell and it’s humbling to know people want to come and watch me’.
Speaking to him it’s clear that whilst he has had difficulties since joining the pro ranks, he ultimately looks past them all knowing that he is lucky to be doing something he loves.
‘People often come up and ask me whether I feel the pressure to succeed but I always say that being able to do this is no pressure, it is a privilege to be in this position’
Following a difficult 5 years which has included a 2 year layoff from training due to a shoulder injury Suz is now hoping that he can kick on with his career and show first hand that anything is indeed possible if you are determined enough.
Given his commitment to community causes then it is perhaps no surprise that it is this work which may just give him his biggest break since joining the pro ranks.
In May this year he had an email from the Zambian government asking if he would like to go over. As it turned out they had been seeking sports men & women to promote various sports and help mentor young talent following the countries surprise African Cup of Nations victory.
For Suz it is an opportunity that he plans to grasp with both hands regardless of what becomes of it.
“I haven’t even been to Africa before but there aren’t any boxers in Europe who have had the chance to go over there. I just see it as a privilege.’
“A lot of people will think it’s a strange place to box, but I couldn’t resist.
“I will be able to expand my horizons, see a fascinating country, help other people and gain some valuable boxing experience.
“At the very least, it will be an adventure,”
With various discussions now out of the way talk has turned to getting TV coverage of his fights. He has been informed that the fights will air on Zambian television as well as on other African TV stations and the hope will be that he can gain some UK coverage for what is just another chapter in a man’s quest to not only realise his ambitions but help others realise theirs.
Courtesy of members of the 606v2 forum and others I had the pleasure of putting forward a number of questions to Suz Member during a Q& A session. This can be found below:
1: How did you first get into boxing…at what age & at which gym?
I was 11 and started out at Preston & Fulwood Amateur boxing club.
2: You said that you had got into trouble when you were younger…what kind and do you think it was because of the people you hung around with or just a by product of the person you were at the time?
I just got into petty crime and began to hang around with the wrong crowd. It was never anything major just getting into scraps and generally being a nuisance to people. They were actions I can’t blame anyone else for because they were my decisions, albeit it wrong ones. Yet they are what make me the person I am today.
3: When first lacing up the gloves what thoughts & emotions were going through your head?
Excitement and fear, that is still the case today although the fear is much more controlled now. Anyone who enters the ring regardless of how many fights they have had should still have that mixture of emotions if they don’t then they shouldn’t really be in there.
4: Did you get into boxing as a way off the streets & out of trouble or did you get into the sport because you had a passion for it?
I got into boxing because of my love of the sport
5: Who do you look up to within the sport? Who was your favourite boxer growing up and has that changed since being in the sport?
Funnily enough my inspiration was the film Rocky! I bought the book as a child and read it all in one night, I was hooked. It hasn’t changed because I still believe in the message of the story that if you want something badly enough it can be yours. The impossible dream is achievable by anyone.
6: If you could step into the ring with anyone in your weight class, past or present, who would it be & why?
No preferences, I would fight anyone from any era. The era’s gone by fascinate me…the likes of Duran, Hagler, Hearns, Ali etc. They just loved to get in the ring and fight it didn’t matter who it was with. That is something which is lacking in the modern era now. There are too many protected fighters and not enough bouts where the best fight the best.
7. You can attend a 12 week training session at any famous gym with any trainer…who would you pick?
The late great Manny Steward, champion maker extraordinaire. He is up there as one of the very best. Again he was old fashioned in the way he trained his fighters and that’s what I liked. He didn’t go about changing fighters whole game…he studied what abilities they had and then utilised them to cover up any weaknesses in his game. He would just build on the tools a fighter and that helped them become so much better.
8. If you could be at ringside for any fight from the past which would it be & why?
Prince Naseem Hamed v Steve Robinson in Wales. Naz went into a hate filled cauldron and gave a boxing masterclass under immense pressure and in the end gained respect from a baying crowd. Awesome!
9. Which sparring partners do you use, or who uses you? Who is the best and in what way?
I spar with all comers and they all have good and bad points. To be honest I use and learn from all of them. It’s easy to get the impression that during sparring people go in there and just knock two bells out of each other…I have seen that happen first hand and hear people talking about knocking people out or breaking noses and just think to myself ‘well what have you learnt’. Sparring should be utilised to work and get to grips with the things you’re learning for an upcoming fight. I see it as a chance to fine tune everything rather than a chance to just go in throwing for 3 minutes per round…of course it does help with conditioning but most of that comes from the roadwork etc you do before starting sparring. I have been paid to spar with certain boxers but I feel it would be unprofessional to reveal who and break my confidence to them.
10. If you’ve been used as a sparring partner were you paid by the round, the day, or the week? How much? Or at times was it for free and you were supposed to be thankful for the experience?
I have been paid to spar but really it’s not a case of earning money but a chance to gain experience. I appreciate the experience and learned from them.
11. Which fighters have you shared a ring with and who in your opinion was the best?
I have shared a ring with British, European & World Champions and any fighter who steps in the ring deserves my respect. I could never pick out one as maybe one day we may meet in anger and I wouldn’t want to tempt fate.
12. Did you have much of an amateur background, if so what success did you have?
My amateur career was not a great one; in fact I lost my first 4 fights. The pro style suits me much better. There is a message there…believe in your ability and never give up.
I actually think that too much emphasis is put on amateur records these days. People are always looking to the next Olympic star or medallist and in the mean time plenty of very good fighters who perhaps don’t have the credentials at that level are being passed up when in fact they could have a style which is much better for when it comes to the pro game.
13: Do you use amateurs to spar? Is there any benefit sparring amateurs? What’s
your opinion on why amateurs are not allowed to train with pros?
Yes I spar with pros and amateurs; the biggest benefit with sparring amateurs is that they always try to prove themselves good enough to be in the ring with you, so you have to be on point for every second of every round. Nowadays a lot of top amateurs do train with the pros so no real separation exists as was the case in the past.
14: Do you feel as though you are used by others as a commodity? Do you care?
Boxing is full of promoters and managers out to make a fast buck. I would say all boxers are used to a certain extent, so boxers have to be a step ahead and use them back. Do I care? Of course, but that’s business full stop so it’s something that has to be dealt with.
15: What do you do supplement your wages? What’s your day job? Do you feel manual labour (say hod carrying) is a hindrance to training or can be effectively used as a training aid?
I am a fire-fighter and the fitness required in my job as a boxer helps my job as a fire-fighter and vice versa. However a boxer who boxes full time does have an advantage in my opinion as they can give 100% focus both mentally and physically to the sport, with no distractions.
16. What type of training do you do? Explain a normal training camp for yourself in the build up to a fight?
10 Week Camp: First 4 weeks totally fitness/weight making orientated then the next 6 weeks are combination of fitness, conditioning, technical boxing and sparring. Of course you still have to focus and ensure you are on target in terms of weight. Then the final 2 weeks is a case of ensuring you are going to make weight properly as well working on my speed and sharpness as well as coming up with a game plan come fight now.
17: Unlicensed boxing is all the rage at the moment; do you see it as a legitimate alternative for journeyman? Bout-for-bout you may not be paid as much but the fights come round more often and they are easier to win. It’s seems a credible little earner, does it not?
Each to their own, I have boxed in underground fighting and un-licenced. I was very lucky as I was paid very well to do so. It is in no way easy however as you seldom know much about your opponent and abilities can very easily be mismatched.
There are plenty of pro boxers out there who like me may have had some rough luck with injuries or just can’t get a fight on a small hall show. It would surprise people to know how many people turn to these in order to make ends meet.
I think there is an image that perhaps it is barbaric and pro boxers shouldn’t be seen anywhere near it but the truth is that plenty of them are run legitimately and are done very well in an extremely professional way…if those who are chasing their dreams in the pro ranks can’t get opportunities then where else are they supposed to turn.
18. Being that you have done some form of unlicensed boxing have you ever considered trying your hand at MMA as an alternative?
No. Though I think we can actually learn something from MMA. You can see how much it has grown in recent years and it is becoming bigger and bigger, here in the UK as well as everywhere else.
I liked the addition of the KO bonus in prizefighter the other week. It’s those kinds of ideas which we can take and learn from when it comes to the UFC etc.
19: You are signing a contract in Africa? Africa has a huge HIV positive population. Do you know of any safeguards to reduce the risk of contraction for boxers?
It’s a very dated and ignorant question really because all pro-boxers undergo full medicals, brain scans and HIV, HEP A/B tests etc so there is no problems there.
20: The cost of living in Africa is small, presumably out there a fighters wages are too? What is your motivation to go? The wages paid won’t get you far in the UK so will be living out there permanently?
The motivation is to box and make the most of the opportunity. Glory comes first and the money second. I will commute initially fight by fight as I may be fighting in other countries.
21: Will you get much altitude training done over there?
All my training there will be at altitude. With the heat and the atmosphere there being very light it will provide a new challenge and one which I relish in overcoming.
22: As well as the health risks associated with the continent are there other risks and dangers which you may face in Zambia…do these deter you from going?
I feel like its all part of the challenge. It’s a fantastic opportunity to be given and as well as helping me and my career it is a chance to show places where people may have a certain perception in a different light.
23: Given your age and difficulties with injuries in the past what is it that makes you think you can still make it in the pro game?
Total belief in my ability. I feel like a volcano which is just waiting to erupt. I have had difficulties and challenges but those have got me to where I am now. I battle demons every day but I never lose faith in myself.
24: Have you ever considered using a banned drug at any stage of your career? If so what drove you to either use or consider using it?
No…Never. I am a firm believer in just good old fashioned hard work. We are in a time where there are so many supplements etc these days that people have an over reliance on them. I don’t even have enough money to be going out and buying protein shakes etc. The likes of Ali & co were all good enough just working hard in the gym, why should it be different now? I think telling people you need this and that supplement etc is part of the problem now…by doing so you are essentially putting restrictions on people’s natural talent/fitness. They begin to question themselves and believe that they have to have the best stuff out there to help…think that can lead to the problems we see with drugs in the sport.
25. With the recent drug scandals which have plagued the sport (Berto, Peterson, Chavez, Morales, but to name a few) do you think enough is being done to combat the issue both on a national and
As far as I know all pro boxers are drug tested regularly. I have been tested 4 times and have come back clean each time. I can only speak for this country but it seems that people are certainly tested…whether it is done enough is a matter of opinion. I think the problem lies not in the testing but the stance to people who fail tests!
26: What punishments do you think should be handed out to those who fail a test?
Lifetime unconditional bans. This is a sport which automatically puts peoples live at risk just by having two people in the ring. The fact that someone can fail a test and still fight is shocking. By allowing those who fail to carry on everything being done to combat the issue is then negated. You also have to question why these people are still getting opportunities when there are boxers out there doing everything by the rule book and not getting a break or a shot at the big time.
27: As someone who does a lot of work within your community, how do you feel you have changed people’s lives if you believe you have at all?
That isn’t for me to answer really, I would hope I have made a difference somewhere along the way. I think just telling your story and being humble, honest and approachable is enough to inspire others to chase their dreams.
I am not trying to preach to anyone because at the end of the day I am just Suz, a normal guy who still has faults but is working with them to the best of my ability.
28: Do you think the BBBofC do enough at the grassroots of the sport i.e. opening gyms etc or do you feel that much of that side of the sport is left for the likes of ex pro’s and people within the communities?
No I don’t think the BBBofC does not do enough for the grass roots level of the sport. As you mention much of it left to ex pro’s or people within the community. You see many former boxers opening gyms and it’s great but as a sport much more needs to be done. In every other sport the governing body at least partially funds facilities or projects in order to raise awareness and participation in their sport but the BBBofC doesn’t.
I actually think more people should come out and speak because I think there is a fear of repercussions but unless change is seeked then things will remain the same. There is nothing wrong with having an opinion on a matter especially if it is one which you think will make things better.
Given that they take a cut of fight purses up and down the country for sanctioning contests you have to ask where that money then goes. Of course they have people to pay for but since they oversee the sport in the country I believe they should have an interest in funding the grass roots of it.
29: In the past 12 years we have seen a large amount of focus being put on amateur stars from the Olympics…is there a case to be made that boxing is overlooking potential stars by merely thinking that the next big thing will be someone who makes it to and wins a medal at the Olympics?
Yes most definitely, concentrating on young elite will only lose us late developers or fighters who could be more adapt at the pro game. A healthy middle ground needs to be found because as we have seen in the past success at the amateur ranks doesn’t mean immediate success in the pro game. The problem is that promoters see the bigger amateur names as a chance to make a quick buck, it is much easier to get them straight into the limelight…as a result equally good or even better fighters miss out
30: At a national level what changes if any would you make to the sport?
I would make a number of changes. We need to find a way of removing or at least eliminating personal and political agendas and egos out of decision making. This is the one thing which is really hurting the sport.
I would also make accessing pro-licences easier by taking away antiquated decision making policies.
As for the rankings I would change the system to simple points per fight system. This way boxers earn points based on who they are fighting; rankings would be more transparent and fair rather than just favouring big promoters and their assets.
31: In what way do you feel the sport has got better over the years and in which way do you think it has got worse?
Larger and better TV and media coverage has meant huge financial incentives at the top of the sport. However still a sense of those who are backed by big promoters getting all the opportunities regardless of their recent records or there standing in the rankings etc. This means a lot of great pros or boxers who could be great pros are walking away through lack of opportunities, sadly this is an issue which may not change for a long time to come.
32: From covering up failed drugs tests to giving the decision to the wrong fighter there have been many instances of ‘possible corruption’ which people feel has occurred in the sport…have you experienced anything yourself or seen anything occur?
I have never come across corruption in boxing myself or even heard of anything. Personally however it wouldn’t surprise me if did occur. As we have seen in all sports where big money is involved corruption does happen so who knows what may go on.
33: What are your thoughts on using boxing within education? Do you think it is a sport which should be added to the ‘Sports Curriculum’ or do you think it’s too dangerous?
Boxing teaches discipline, self control, honesty and respect. All the things which can help make good adults/people. Of course there are dangers involved but I think it can only do good.
34: As someone who has used his life lessons to teach others what do you think is the most important message you could give to any kid who walked into a gym?
In life you will only get what you are willing to work for.
35: What are your objectives going forward?
To be the best I can be…that is always my goal not just in the ring but outside of it too.
36: Given that you are close to signing a 5 fight deal to go abroad and fight, how many bouts would you ideally like to have in the next 12 months?
Realistically I am aiming for a minimum of 3 fights but if I could get 5 under my belt that would be fantastic.
37: Which British boxing talent most excites you at this moment in time?
The truth is that I measure all boxers against the most exciting and charismatic boxers of the modern era after Ali, Prince Naseem Hamed. I don’ think there is a boxer at the moment is fit to lace his boots so no one.
38: Is there anyone out there who the general fan may not be aware of, who you think has big things ahead of him…if so who is it & why does he excite you?
39: Because of you age and lack of fight action do you think that you will now have to take greater risks at lower costs in order get to where you want to go before hanging up the gloves?
Yes but I am a born risk taker and love danger, so bring it on….
40: What would you like to do when you do finish boxing professionally? Are you interested in the coaching/training side of things or would you prefer to focus on using your knowledge and time in sport as a motivational/educational tool within communities and schools etc?
I never look further than my next fight. My focus now is to get back in the ring and push on. I always say that my next great performance will be my next training session, that’s the kind of mentality I take.
I would like to extend my thanks to Suz for taking time out of his schedule in order to do this question and answer session.
If anyone would like to contact Suz himself then you can do so a number of ways:
Email – firstname.lastname@example.org
Website – http://www.suzmember.com/
Twitter – @SuzMember